S.Korean leader proposes peace zone bordering North

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday proposed that the United Nations create an "international peace zone" to replace the peninsula's divide, saying the idea would both reassure the North and inspire the world.

The left-leaning leader, whose diplomacy paved the way for the historic summits between President Donald Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un, laid out his rosy vision for the last Cold War frontier in an address to the UN General Assembly.

He asked the international community to commit to designating the international peace area to replace the 250-kilometer (155-mile) Demilitarized Zone that has split the two Koreas for more than 60 years.

Moon said the zone would offer an added incentive for Kim to give up its nuclear weapons, the focus on more than a year of on-again, off-again talks between North Korea and the United States.

"The establishment of an international peace zone will provide an institutional and realistic guarantee for North Korea's security," Moon said.

"At the same time South Korea will be able to gain permanent peace," he said.

Moon voiced hope that the zone, which is four kilometers (2.5 miles) wide, would become the home of UN agencies dedicated to conflict resolution and the environment and eventually be declared a world heritage site by UNESCO, the UN cultural body.

"It can become an international peace zone in name as well as substance," Moon said.

Despite the intense military buildups on each side of the Demilitarized Zone, "paradoxically it has become a pristine ecological treasure trove," he said.

"When the DMZ that cuts the midriff of the Korean peninsula is turned into a peace zone, the peninsula will evolve into a bridge nation that connects the continent and the ocean and facilitates peace and prosperity," he said.

Moon said he had spoken to Kim about the restoration of Korea-wide railroads that have been severed since the 1950-53 war.

Despite Moon's optimism, North Korea has not taken concrete steps to end its nuclear program and has continued to fire short-range projectiles, drawing particular concern in Japan.

Trump has nonetheless insisted that he likes Kim and trusts him, saying that the North Korean leader wrote him "beautiful" letters including for his birthday.